A humdrum adventure that muddily tries to convey the notion that all of life’s students are also teachers.

APPLEWHITES COAST TO COAST

From the Applewhites series , Vol. 3

The Applewhites take their untraditional, ramshackle educational show on the road.

In this third in the Applewhites saga, Jake Semple, cured of his rebel ways at their home-school ranch called Wit’s End, remains with the Applewhites. The entire brood embarks on a cross-country competition to prove their brand of experiential, self-driven learning is the best. If they win, there’s both money and reality TV fame to be had. E.D. and Jake’s first kiss hasn’t quite gone as expected, so when trouble arrives in the form of a gorgeous bad-girl named Melody Aiko Bernstein, Jake is struck dumb and E.D. is simmeringly jealous. Jake’s and E.D.’s thoughts are revealed in alternating, third-person–limited chapters, while the rest of the quirky cast play out their roles in the background. The Art Bus goes from assigned stop to assigned stop per the competition’s directive, amid myriad mishaps such as wayward crushes, stolen cars, embarrassing theater performances, minimakeovers, and cockroach infestations. Through sarcastic wit and sweet charm by turns, Melody manipulates the Applewhites, begging the question of everyone’s integrity. This road trip is long and, despite its jumble of events, often tedious. Jake and the Applewhites are white; diversity is mostly conveyed by naming convention, as with Melody’s Japanese middle name and yoga teacher/family cook Govindaswami’s Indian one.

A humdrum adventure that muddily tries to convey the notion that all of life’s students are also teachers. (Fiction. 8-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-213320-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish.

THE MECHANICAL MIND OF JOHN COGGIN

The dreary prospect of spending a lifetime making caskets instead of wonderful inventions prompts a young orphan to snatch up his little sister and flee. Where? To the circus, of course.

Fortunately or otherwise, John and 6-year-old Page join up with Boz—sometime human cannonball for the seedy Wandering Wayfarers and a “vertically challenged” trickster with a fantastic gift for sowing chaos. Alas, the budding engineer barely has time to settle in to begin work on an experimental circus wagon powered by chicken poop and dubbed (with questionable forethought) the Autopsy. The hot pursuit of malign and indomitable Great-Aunt Beauregard, the Coggins’ only living relative, forces all three to leave the troupe for further flights and misadventures. Teele spins her adventure around a sturdy protagonist whose love for his little sister is matched only by his fierce desire for something better in life for them both and tucks in an outstanding supporting cast featuring several notably strong-minded, independent women (Page, whose glare “would kill spiders dead,” not least among them). Better yet, in Boz she has created a scene-stealing force of nature, a free spirit who’s never happier than when he’s stirring up mischief. A climactic clutch culminating in a magnificently destructive display of fireworks leaves the Coggin sibs well-positioned for bright futures. (Illustrations not seen.)

A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish. (Adventure. 11-13)

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234510-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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A sweet adventure and a paean to imagination and childhood innocence.

THE LAND OF ROAR

From the Land of Roar series , Vol. 1

A fantasy world comes to life and lures its young creators back into it in this imaginative middle-grade debut and U.K. import.

Narrator Arthur always loved playing make-believe in Grandad’s attic with his twin sister, Rose. Years ago they dreamed up Roar, a magical land that they entered via an old fold-up cot that acted as a portal. Now that they are 11 and starting school at Langdon Academy, Rose has new friends and wants nothing to do with her brother or their imaginary world. Rose may be done with Roar, but it’s not finished with her. When their grandfather is kidnapped and taken into Roar, Arthur and Rose must team up to mount a rescue mission. McLachlan does an excellent job of establishing the sibling tension before introducing the fantasy elements, and Rose’s desire to grow up and fit in feels as familiar and accessible as Arthur’s yearning to remain a child. While obviously reminiscent of classic fantasy, this narrative’s sheer inventiveness marks it as distinct. The twins’ widowed grandfather, a larger-than-life jokester from Mauritius, is a Peter Pan–like figure whose abduction brings the narrative into Roar, allowing the text and Mantle’s illustrations to go wild with creativity. The use of a wordless double-page spread to depict Arthur’s arrival into the fantasy realm is particularly inventive. Arthur and Rose are depicted as kids of color.

A sweet adventure and a paean to imagination and childhood innocence. (map) (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: June 30, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-298271-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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